Should I Watch..? 'Entrapment'
What's the big deal?
Entrapment is an action heist thriller released in 1999 and was directed by Jon Amiel. The film concerns the efforts of an insurance investigator to entrap a professional art thief with an ambitious scheme to steal $8 billion at the turn of the Millennium. The film stars Sean Connery, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Ving Rhames and Will Patton. The film is notable for the obvious age difference between Connery and Zeta-Jones, one that many thought was too implausible and uncomfortable. Critics were not too impressed by the film but it was still a success at the box office with global takings in excess of $212 million, making it one of the most successful films of Connery's long career.
What's it about?
After a priceless Rembrandt is stolen from a New York office block, insurance investigator Virginia "Gin" Baker has only one suspect - professional thief Robert "Mac" MacDougal. Her boss, Hector Cruz, orders Gin to go undercover and investigate Mac, which she does by pretending to be a fellow thief and offers him the prospect of a job. An ancient Chinese mask will be on display at Bedford Palace and Mac takes the bait, contacting his ally Aaron Thibadeaux for supplies and travelling to Scotland to plan the heist.
However, Gin's cover is soon blown after Mac overhears her talking to Cruz. After he accuses her of planning to sell the mask and then turning him over to the authorities, Gin tells Mac that her insurance job is a cover and that she has an even bigger job lined up - the theft of $8 billion from the International Clearing Bank in Kuala Lumpur. Unsure of whether she's telling the truth or not, Mac begins planning the new heist while trying to keep his growing feelings for Gin suppressed.
Robert "Mac" MacDougal
Virginia "Gin" Baker
Ronald Bass & William Broyles Jr*
Release Date (UK)
2nd July, 1999
Action, Crime, Heist, Romance
Razzie Award Nominations
Worst Actress (Zeta-Jones), Worst Screen Couple (Connery & Zeta-Jones)
What's to like?
Nobody is going to complain about the standards of leading actors like Connery and Zeta-Jones who have countless awards between them. And sure enough, the pair of them bring enough charisma to power a small town and with one of my favourite supporting actors in the form of Rhames, the film is remarkably easy to watch. A lot of heist films seem to involve every effort to confuse the audience but Entrapment keeps things relatively simple.
I'm not hugely familiar with Amiel's work (although I did enjoy Copycat when I saw it years ago) but he has a great eye for scenery and framing the action around such picturesque surroundings as the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur and Duart Castle on the Isle Of Mull in Scotland. This also makes the film very easy to watch - it feels familiar and comfortable, like an old but much-loved sofa. Trouble is, you do need to pay attention to the narrative because it does throw a couple of swerves in the plot. And getting the most out of the film involves catching all the clues and working out the truth. It isn't as involving as my favourite heist flick, the Ocean's Eleven reboot, but the film certainly has a sting in its tail.
- Malaysia objected to the film depiction of the country as being economically unbalanced and backward. The shanty town of Malacca, seen in proximity to the Petronas Towers, is actually miles away and inserted via CGI.
- Sean Connery would later present Catherine Zeta-Jones with her Best Supporting Actress award at the 2003 Academy Awards for her performance in Chicago.
- Unusually, the film came in two million dollars beneath its budget. Co-producer Rhonda Tollefson credits this to Connery's thriftiness - he drove himself instead of using a chauffeur and flew on commercial airlines instead of private planes. It's worth noting that Connery was a producer on this film so he had a vested interest in saving money!
What's not to like?
Part of the strength of Ocean's Eleven is the interplay between the various characters, most of whom are extremely charismatic and likeable. Entrapment, sadly, leaves us with these two who spend as much time trying to sus each other out than actually nick stuff. They don't feel authentic at all and their inevitable romance only seems to exist because the script called for it. Speaking of which, the 39-year age gap between the two is far beyond acceptable to be even remotely realistic and it torpedoes the film's moment which had been gathering nicely up to that point. Imagine watching an actress like Ariel Winter (the talented 20-year-old star of Modern Family) having to endure a sex scene with Alec Baldwin. Creepy, isn't it?
Sadly, the action doesn't compensate for the stomach-churning romance with only the climatic pursuit halfway up the Petronas Towers giving the film its sole memorable sequence. Actually, I lie - the film is also notorious for the needless use of Zeta-Jones squeezed into gym wear and forced to cavort and bend endlessly across a room full of lasers, none of which get set off by her prodigious posterior which the camera gazes at longingly. In the current climate, it's almost shocking to see the lead actress in a film being degraded and reduced to mere eye-candy in such a transparent way. Even the Bond films had more-or-less caught up with the times and it makes Entrapment feel out-of-touch and old fashioned. Probably not what they were hoping for when trying to produce a contemporary caper.
Should I watch it?
For a film that tries so hard to be cutting-edge and modern, Entrapment falls prey not just to its Y2K-related narrative but also the uncomfortable sexual politics of yesteryear proudly on display. Despite the gadgets and technology, this film feels like it should have been made thirty-something years ago. The film wastes the talents of both Connery and Zeta-Jones and instead settles for being a mildly diverting and light-hearted thriller that pulls few surprises.
Great For: dirty old men, men's midlife crises, Connery's ego?
Not So Great For: anyone hoping for an Ocean's Eleven-style smash, home security systems, Millennials laughing about Y2K paranoia
What else should I watch?
I'll keep this simple. Connery is an icon of cinema, not just becoming the first James Bond in 1962's Dr No but making the role his own in films like Goldfinger. Other career highlights include his memorable appearance in Highlander, his Oscar-winning performance in The Untouchables, acting Harrison Ford off the screen in classic adventure movie Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade and still kicking ass alongside Nicholas Cage in explosive action thriller The Rock. And while her Hollywood career obviously isn't as long as her co-stars, Zeta-Jones still set the screen ablaze in The Mask Of Zorro as well as appearing in heavyweight dramas like Traffic and Side Effects and securing that Oscar in the screen adaptation of the musical Chicago.
Heist movies only really have one place to look at if there are searching for the ideal template. With a cast to kill for including George Clooney & Brad Pitt, the bright lights of Las Vegas, a story that manages to keep its secrets for the most part and a killer soundtrack, Ocean's Eleven remains the definitive heist flick and more so than the 1960 Rat Pack version, confusingly titled Ocean's 11. Despite being followed by witless sequels, the film has a glamour and escapism that's just impossible to resist.
© 2018 Benjamin Cox